Andrew Copp, Dylan Larkin connect for Detroit Red Wings in 3-1 W over Washington Capitals

Detroit Free Press

On a night when the Detroit Red Wings celebrated their franchise at one of its best times, the current team had much to live up to.

The evening’s events at Little Caesars Arena began with a ceremony honoring the 1997 Stanley Cup team. It was a joyful reminder of how good the Wings were 25 years ago, and a inspiration to the current team of where the franchise wants to be again.

One game at a time, and Thursday’s against the Washington Capitals wasn’t easy. Seeking to right themselves after a shellacking on the road, the Wings squeezed out a 3-1 victory, secured in the final minute with am empty-net goal from Dylan Larkin.

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Lucas Raymond scored on a power play and the Wings’ penalty killers did their job four times, including with two minutes to go and the Capitals’ net empty. Ville Husso was outstanding in net, keeping his teammates in the game through numerous Capitals surges. Husso had made 33 saves when Andrew Copp scored his first goal of the season, going to the net with about four minutes to play in regulation.

Mantha returns

Thursday marked the first time Anthony Mantha played at LCA since the April 12, 2021, trade in which general manager Steve Yzerman sent Mantha to Washington  in exchange for Jakub Vrana, a 2021 first-round pick and a 2022 second-round pick. Both players were viewed as underachievers by their respective former clubs. Both missed significant time last season because of shoulder issues (Vrana, 56 games; Mantha, 45). Vrana is out indefinitely after being placed in the players assistance program Oct. 19, two games into the season. Entering Thursday, Mantha, 28, had 16 goals and 19 assists in 62 games in a Capitals uniform, a .56 points-per-game average. Vrana, 26, had 22 goals and 10 assists in 39 games with the Wings, a .82 average. As much as Vrana’s absences have and continue to impact the Wings — he is arguably their most singularly effective offensive player — the key part of the trade remains the first-round pick Yzerman secured. That pick was used to trade up to select goaltender Sebastian Cossa, who is earmarked to be the team’s goaltender of the future.

Ovechkin ties Howe

Wings defenseman Robert Hägg blocked an Alex Ovechkin shot during a power play, wincing in pain. Ovechkin succeeded at 7:11 of the second period, firing a shot from the left circle that whipped through traffic and into the far corner behind Husso. It was a special goal: No. 786 of Ovechkin’s career, tying Gordie Howe for most with a single franchise. Ovechkin also scored a historic goal last season at Little Caesars Arena, when he broke the NHL record for power-play goals by scoring No. 275 with the man advantage on New Year’s Eve.

Raymond makes good

Larkin drew a penalty on Lars Eller at 14:58 of the second period that put the Wings on a second power play. Dominik Kubalik sent the puck to the net, where Raymond was unable to stuff it behind Darcy Kuemper. The Wings maintained possession, and tried the play again: David Perron to Kubalik down along the goal line, Kubalik to Raymond at the net. This time Raymond was able to corral the puck and shoot it into the net, to make it 1-1 at 14:58. Larkin put the puck in Washington’s net at a couple minutes later, but officials ruled no goal as Perron had been tied up with Kuemper.

Contact Helene St. James at Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.

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Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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